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One of my biggest ME/CFS recovery tips? Do absolutely nothing!

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

As I’ve written about before, one of the frustrating things for those looking to improve their ME/Chronic Fatigue symptoms is the fact that what helps one person, quite possibly won’t help another. Everybody’s situation is unique to them - the reason for their initial health decline, how fit and healthy they were before they got ill, what their lifestyle factors are. There are many things that can impact someone’s health recovery journey.

But as I work to help more and more people with their life rescues, there are patterns that I see emerging. Some things seem to help pretty much everyone - no matter their journey. And I make sure I weave these into their rescue plans of course!

One of these activities is so simple, yet so effective: doing absolutely nothing!

How often do you find yourself doing absolutely nothing? Think carefully (and I don’t mean while you’re asleep - that’s cheating!). We might think that we’re relaxing or taking some rest time. But often we’re still either listening to music, reading a magazine, casually scrolling through facebook on our phones.

Many people who find themselves tackling life with ME/CFS were previously the types who were always ‘on the go’. This isn’t true for all - I’m making a generalisation to make a point! But I’ve definitely seen that this is true for most of the people I help. We think we’re so good at multi-tasking, and technology means that we have so much at our fingertips. Our poor brains are always on the go! And, as those of us who have personally lived with ME/CFS know, cognitive overuse can bring on flare-ups and crashes just as easily as physical over-exertion.

So my top tip, again is: do absolutely nothing.

Find some time in your day - ideally at least a couple of times a day - where you can sit in a quiet room in silence with no external stimulation. I call this ‘empty brain time’. Resist the temptation to check your phone, or even to think too much. Just sit there and enjoy emptying your brain. I suppose this is close to the action of meditating - but many find that listening to a recording is the only way they can meditate successfully. And that means processing words and music, which isn’t empty brain time!

A personal example for me when I was tackling my ME/CFS recovery was discovering the benefits of keeping my car radio off when I still worked in my busy corporate office job. I’d have used my brain so much during office hours that even if I didn’t feel too wiped, my brain must have been worn out by my commute home. I stopped switching on the stereo, which had previously been an automatic habit, and discovered that by the time I got home from that 30 minute drive, I felt much better than the times before when I’d had music playing or news reports to listen to. Now I’ve studied and qualified in psychotherapy I absolutely know that my brain had enough to do to focus on the rules of the road while I was driving. Having the radio on too, just gave it all the more to have to juggle cognitively.

So with this in mind, look for times throughout the day that you could find empty brain space, but tend to fill it. Do you check your phone while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil? Do you have the TV on in the kitchen while you’re preparing dinner? Do you always have the car radio on when you’re driving? Think about cutting down on this sort of external stimulus - and even better, schedule in some empty brain time at least once a day.

I’m sure you’ll feel the benefits - let me know if you do!

Take care,


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